The red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus) is a long lived marine finfish (> 50 years of age) which has an estuarine dependant early life history (ages 0-4). Throughout the southeast US, this species (known locally as spottail bass) is one of the top three fish preferred by saltwater anglers. Historically, red drum supported important commercial and recreational fisheries from New Jersey to Texas. However, in the early 1980’s it became apparent that the population was declining due primarily to un-regulated fishing which targeted all age and size classes. Since then, increasingly restrictive fishing regulations have been implemented in an effort to restore depleted populations.
Due to the current status of red drum stocks and the slow recovery response to current conventional fishery management techniques, South Carolina fisheries managers felt it prudent to initiate studies to examine the use of stock enhancement as a possible fishery management tool. Over the past decade, studies have focused on developing suitable production techniques and in implementing a responsible approach to address the opportunities and limitations than may be associated with large scale releases of hatchery fish. To date, many questions have been addressed and various release and monitoring protocols developed. Present focus is examining the impacts of different size fish at release (2 day old larvae to legal size fish) as well as evaluating the costs and benefits associated with releasing fish. In the process, information on fish population dynamics and recruitment is being obtained which will be helpful in managing existing populations.